Faster Than Sound: Unbounded Agency for the Underrepresented
Anita Obasi’s parties make space for queer artistry, Jay Wile’s croon tricks fans of Frank Ocean, and more recommendations for KVRX Fest
Last Friday's torrential rains at Cheer Up Charlies pared down the audience for Monterrey DJ NurryDog's Latin dance selects and Dallas rap duo Fagedelics' sparkling trap. A cozy dance floor thus emphasized attendees' friendships with event-maker Anita Obasi. Launched last year, the former tech worker's Unbounded Agency curates intersectional spaces for queer creatives.
Alongside last week's La Rebelión series, she found a niche early on with her Glowed Up parties.
"I heard feedback like, 'There's no space like this in Austin' or 'This is the first time I felt like I could dress in drag,'" recalls Obasi, 27. "Seeing people feel confident enough to participate, dance, or even just say hi to someone is super satisfying."
Across town that same night, UT ethnomusicology Ph.D. candidate Jeannelle Ramírez kicked off the first year of her Future Traditions Festival, which links Latinx musicians and multimedia artists. Unbounded helped with marketing. Obasi's behind-the-scenes consulting also pairs her with youth nonprofit New Horizons Lacrosse, alongside her full-time event coordination for nonprofit assisting venture fund Notley.
"My goal is always to create more visibility for underrepresented demographics, which boils down to people of color, queer people, and people whose voices aren't generally the dominant narrative," says the production wiz.
After moving to Austin from D.C. as a high-tech account executive, Obasi helped launch former Eastside multi-use space Topology in 2016. The project's momentum carried over to Unbounded, which pulled its largest event in December. Equal Axis, presented by Red Bull Music and DJ collective Thank You for Sweating, stood out with over 1,000 attendees Downtown and national media coverage.
"There are queer spaces in Austin, but as far as consistent programming beyond Cheer Up Charlies, it's still difficult to find," adds the first-generation American. "There's an assumption that Austin is super liberal and avant-garde, but the progressiveness is not actually there."
Obasi speaks with an easygoing enthusiasm about nitty-gritty marketing and scientific research on the liberating effects of reggaeton. Past production experience with the South Congress Hotel also makes her an ideal power source for the local LGBTQ scene. Antonio Padron of San Antonio dance collective House of Kenzo and trans activist Sam Davis dream up competition categories for Obasi's Glowed Up events, and Mexican label Estudio 1070 partners for La Rebelión series, returning in June.
"You're in a space, and by talking about the space, you're talking about community issues – while surrounded by queer performers and international DJs," explains Obasi. "The whole mix turns into a dance party."
KVRX Fest Preview: Jay Wile
Friday and Saturday's first annual KVRX Festival breaks out the student-run tastemakers at Cheer Up Charlies and Symphony Square for some 40 notable acts, including local Frank Ocean devotee and R&B songwriter Jay Wile, who frequented the superstar's subreddit when his own music showed up in the conversation.
"If Frank is the second coming of Jesus, is this the third?" wrote one user of the smooth Texas singer, born Justin Wiley. The comparison emerged from a mysterious video upload of 2017 track "Numb" to YouTube as a new Ocean track. The song's attracted over 200,000 views since March.
"It was a blessing in disguise," says the Austinite of the viral select from debut Blue Patio. "'Numb' basically wrote itself when I was in a really weird space. I was very honest on that song, so it confirmed that if I can just be myself, someone will like it."
Spin suggested the artist's co-manager Kayvan Daragheh, an A&R manager at Genius, posted the video, but the earnest singer says he doesn't know where it came from. Still, the San Antonio-raised performer is accustomed to magic online connections. They led to him opening last year for a sold-out show by Mac Ayres at NYC's Bowery Ballroom.
Wiley credits a high school classmate's take on Ocean's "Lost" as his first-ever production effort. He later mastered cover arrangements as music director of an a cappella group at Texas A&M.
"When songs touch me, I want to do my own take on them," says the 25-year-old multi-instrumentalist. "Like Brockhampton's 'Waste,' I had to redo it. I really love melodies and honing exactly where I can float and find the pocket for them."
Landing in Austin last December, he worked in Human Influence co-founder/rapper (Christopher) Omenihu and his roommate/collaborator Phon (aka Jake Bracher) on latest single "2AM." KVRX Fest marks the crooner's third performance ever in Austin, joining Abhi the Nomad and Fat Tony for a stacked Saturday show at Symphony Square.
More KVRX Fest Picks
Abhi the Nomad
Charismatic Austin rapper's high-energy sunshine set will ensure your new song of the summer, and he doesn't play locally too often.
Local trio's sturdy, world-weary rock songs pull hard on only two released tracks.
Chipper Atlanta post-punks, including ex-Deerhunter guitarist Frankie Broyles, mark Sub Pop signing with "Delicacy" and "I Don't Dance."
Perfectly unconventional rock songs from a jagged Philly quartet last seen at SXSW 2018.
Sexy Dex & the Fresh
Backed by New Orleans' Community Records, futuristic funk group conjures cosmic fun.
NOLA synth lovers/songwriting buddies weren't kidding when they named 2018 LP Pop Therapy.
Yvonne Goodwyne weaves locally sourced, electronically edged etherealness.
JMBLYA's Austin stop, planned for last Saturday at Circuit of the Americas, canceled the morning of due to weather damage. Fans lit up social media with complaints, taunted by sunny skies and the event's preceding Dallas date. A speedily sold-out replacement show at Emo's offered Lil Wayne, Kevin Gates, and others the same night, inviting more upset that festival ticket holders weren't prioritized. Presenter ScoreMore ended the weekend with cheeky new tees reading "F*CK JMBLYA."
Superfónicos offer sprightly new songs "Cumbéalo" and "Tropidelico" Friday and celebrate Saturday at the Mexican American Cultural Center. The 7-inch launches Spoon drummer and local producer Jim Eno's new Spotlight Series, a team effort between Austin pressers Gold Rush Vinyl and his own Public Hi-Fi Studio.
Austin City Limits Music Festival reported a $264.6 million contribution to Austin's economy in 2018, representing a 3.8% increase from 2017. The announcement included a $5.1 million donation to the Austin Parks Foundation. Online, festival tracking group Book More Women celebrated C3 Presents' fall classic as one of "the most diverse and balanced" major American lineups for the second year in a row, including 45% acts with at least one woman or nonbinary member.
Eden Welply suffered severe injuries following a pedestrian accident, as detailed March 8 on our Daily Music blog. Friends gather Thursday, May 16, for a benefit show at 610 Terrell Hill Dr. A dreamy folk-influenced lineup includes Christelle Bofale, Blair Robbins (Ama), Emily Whetstone (Van Mary), Lizzie Buckley (Marijuana Sweet Tooth), and more.